Bold Predictions for NBA's Top Matchups in December
With November gone and December just getting going, the NBA is officially kicking into full gear with an exciting month of basketball coming up, and a lot of story lines rounding into place.
Of course, the big focus for the month is going to be Christmas Day, which has become the biggest day of regular season basketball for the NBA, but there's going to be a lot more than that on the docket.
There's a matchup between last year's two NBA Finals competitors, the most-hyped Western Conference teams end up playing each other and a few installments of the exciting Nets-Knicks rivalry.
A lot can change in the span of a month, and a few games may go from undeniably uninteresting to completely compelling within a few weeks, but most of the following games should be able to hold up their luster unless an injury derails the hype.
So for now, let's take a look at what we've got coming up in the next month and make a few assumptions and predictions about what will go down in the biggest games.
New York Knicks at Miami Heat, December 6th
The Miami Heat welcome the New York Knicks to the American Airlines Arena Thursday evening in a TNT showdown of top Eastern Conference teams.
It will be the second time these two teams have met this season, the first leading to a blowout win for the Knicks, handing the Heat their first loss of the year.
However, the Heat have been unbeatable at home. Even if they have been waiting until late to put teams away, they've been incredible during those times in the game. If they lose this game it's because they've decided to sit LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Going further, we've yet to see a legitimate showdown between behemoths this season. This is the best candidate in the coming weeks.
LeBron should be coming in with a chip on his shoulder to avenge Miami's first loss of the season, while Carmelo Anthony should be continuing his hot shooting and turning it up a notch when Miami puts on the Heat.
L.A. Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder, December 7th
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder over Los Angeles Lakers; huge scoring explosion.
The two teams everybody talked about in the offseason will finally meet this Friday as the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder.
What we've got is the highest-scoring team in the NBA playing the sixth highest-scoring team in the NBA playing very similar styles.
The Lakers play a more up-tempo game, but both teams are predicated on the idea that a higher percentage shot goes up more often than something randomly from the perimeter. They shoot a lot of jumpers, but they're by open men after a handful of passes.
With Los Angeles finally getting into the groove with Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers will come into this one and push the tempo, leading to one of the highest-scoring games of the year.
I won't be surprised to see both teams get near 120 in regulation with all the shots that are bound to go up.
New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets, December 11th
Prediction: Brooklyn Nets over New York Knicks; Deron Williams has an MVP-caliber game.
The Nets and Knicks meet for the second time in the second week of December, and it's not the last time the two teams meet this month.
For the second time the two teams will play in Brooklyn, with Jay-Z and Beyonce sitting courtside and Mikhail Prokhorov's presence looming somewhere above, whether it be in a luxury box or from the safety of a Russian helicopter slowly circling stealthily overhead.
Once again I'm feeling a Nets win; there's no other way this one could play out to get the most over-analysis from the New York press.
If the Nets have won two in a row and they're atop the Atlantic Division, obviously they're the best team in New York. That's what we're going to get to hear about before the two teams meet again on the 19th.
What's going to pull it out for the Nets is a stellar performance from Deron Williams, who is still working on gelling with this new squad, but should be getting in a grove within the next few weeks.
L.A. Lakers at New York Knicks, December 13th
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers over New York Knicks; Kobe doing work.
We've had quite a few good games out of Kobe Bryant so far this season, but the big numbers have been put up against teams in losses. He's been more efficiently impressive rather than outright dominant.
A matchup against the Knicks should be able to cure that ill.
By this time Steve Nash should be back in the lineup, so Kobe will be back to his old scoring ways, getting as many shots as he damn well pleases in the process.
He might not shoot 54 percent from the field and make all the bloggers happy, but he's going to come in and put on a clinic as the Knicks do everything possible to slow him down.
San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder, December 17th
Prediction: San Antonio Spurs over Oklahoma City Thunder; overtime thriller.
This will be the second game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder since the Spurs beat the Thunder in a low-scoring, down-to-the-wire thriller in San Antonio.
In that game the San Antonio Spurs watched as Tony Parker hit a game-winning jumper for the second night in a row (he had just downed the New Orleans Hornets with a three-pointer the night before), giving the Spurs a bit of redemption for their Western Conference Finals loss from last season.
There's no reason to think this one will be any different.
Call it a hunch, call it a wild-guess, call it whatever you want, but I see this one going into overtime as Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook go back-and-forth, with Westbrook bending as Parker stays rigid, winning the game for the Spurs.
Let's just hope we can end up seeing these two play in the playoffs again for the sake of amazing basketball.
Houston Rockets at New York Knicks
Prediction: Houston Rockets over New York Knicks; Linsanity.
There hasn't been a lot of mentions of Linsanity 2.0 so far this season. Jeremy Lin has seen a stretch of time during a few games in which he's gotten hot, but nothing near what he did for the New York Knicks last season.
That's why, in his first game back in New York since he and the team parted ways, it's going to be interesting to see how he reacts.
The two teams have met once already, and the Rockets absolutely put a whopping on the Knicks as Lin put on 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists of his own.
Between now and then he's bound to have at least one huge game, so I'm not going to go as far as to call this the rebirth of Linsanity, but it's going to be the public exposure of another helping of Jeremy Lin.
He may not extend it like he did last season, but he's too good to fall off the cliff like Lin has. It may be for but a night, but Linsanity will make an appearance in New York.
Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks, December 19th
Prediction: New York Knicks over Brooklyn Nets; Spike Lee puns galore.
This will be the third matchup of the year for the Nets and Knicks, but the first time the two will meet in Madison Square Garden. If it's possible, the spotlight is going to be even brighter for this rivalry, and things are going to get hot.
After losing the first two games of the season against New York (or so I think), the pressure is going to be all over the Knicks to come out with a win on their home court, and they'll rise to the occasion.
If you checked out the "New York Post" after Brooklyn's first win over the Knicks this year, you'll have noticed more than a half dozen puns on Jay-Z songs in their hilarious attempt to disparage the Knicks.
Once the Knicks finally do win one, the tables are going to completely turn. They're in for more Spike Lee puns than they can stomach.
We'll all marvel as the Knicks use their Inside Man to Do the Right Thing in the 25th Hour while they force the Nets to Get on the Bus and go home, realize that the Knicks Got Game after they threw up Da Brick at the buzzer because of Carmelo Doin' Work.
Predictions: Boston Celtics over Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks over Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder over Miami Heat, Houston Rockets over Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets over Los Angeles Clippers
It seemed necessary to get that all out of the way up front, rather than giving some grand idea for how the stories of the day will pan out. There's a lot going on Christmas Day.
In the end, however, there are only two Christmas Day stories.
First there's the Nets and Celtics meeting for the first time since the recent brawl between the two teams resulting in Rajon Rondo's suspension, this one happening in Brooklyn again.
The crowd is going to be vicious, not a bit of Christmas cheer to be found in the entire arena. However, after the Celtics get past their usual early-season swoon, they're going to be back on a winning track by the time Christmas rolls around.
Will this one be chippy? Absolutely, and it seems only necessary to look out for Kris Humphries and Rajon Rondo again. I think it's safe to say they have a history.
Second, we've got the NBA Finals rematch with Oklahoma City traveling to Miami.
Miami's tendency to loaf around in the first few quarters is going to completely bite them on the butt against Oklahoma City. They're absolutely going to take them to the woodshed and get a bit of respect back from the Heat.